Before I came to Australia, I’d never wanted to chug Vegemite, punt a joey, or jump naked into a pool of hammerheads.
Then again, before I came to Australia I’d never watched cricket, either.
But after a cricket-filled afternoon last weekend, I’m sure I’d do anything to avoid watching it again, including snorting a funnel-web spider. Because, my friends, the rumors are true—cricket is really that mind-numbingly, tear-jerkingly, face-cringingly boring.
And trust me, I know boring sports. I got plenty of flak in high school for being a baseball fan. “After all,” they would say, “isn’t baseball just a dreary ol’ pastime, brimming with fatsos and unathletic dimwits? Can any game where Marshmallow Man-ny Ramirez thrives really be considered a sport?"
Since I wasn’t on the debate team, my responses generally utilized the phrase “your mom” (and if you’ve met me, you know that still rings true). But if I had better prepared my insult-ability, I would have simply carried the rulebook for the “sport” of cricket, doling it out to those who considered baseball tedious and tiresome.
Actually, on second thought, I probably would have brought someone who knows the rules. To a layman like myself, cricket is about as understandable as a drunk Nigerian discussing quantum physics.
Through TV sessions and those random grad students on the IM Fields—who show up, unfailingly, every Saturday afternoon—I’ve pieced together a couple things about cricket, but you’ll have to bear with me. It looks like a batter, wielding a spanking paddle and a fencer’s helmet, takes a swing at a speeding, bounding ball, which is thrown by the pitcher.
Actually, thrown isn’t the right term; “windmilled” is more like it. These pitchers, affectionately called “bowlers,” look like they belong in a ballet troupe as they contort their bodies into all kinds of artistic, unnatural poses.
So this batter, standing in front of some broken sticks, spanks the ball, sending it anywhere on the field—in front, behind, it doesn’t really matter—and runs about 20 feet away to some more broken sticks.
The teams rinse, lather, and repeat for days on end, until for some reason they switch sides. Once the squads have had enough naptimes, they count their overs, runs, and, I’m assuming, gallons of tea consumed, to determine which side came out on top.
Got that? Nope, neither do I. But the Aussies sure do.
Since the Land Down Under is a commonwealth country, cricket has reigned supreme since the first convicts murdered and pillaged their way here 200 years ago. The Australian national Test cricket team is tied with Britain for the oldest in the world, dating back to 1877.
In the subsequent 130 years, the Aussies have become the most dominant force this side of RoboCop. They’ve taken the last three Cricket World Cups and, in a streak the Redeem Team can barely fathom, have won 29 straight World Cup matches.
But their success isn’t a recent phenomenon. The greatest batsman of all time, Donald Bradman, received a massive 100th birthday celebration a couple weeks ago, including the minting of a commemorative $5 Australian coin. The only downside? Bradman died seven years ago. Still, that didn’t stop 400 people from eating his cake.
With a position in the national spotlight, you’d think Australians would be proud to claim the best cricket team in the world, right? Eh, not so much. In fact, it’s the one thing all the travel brochures seem to skim over.
There are the pictures of the rough-and-tumble rugby players, the cute koalas, and the picturesque Opera House, but nothing of the white-clothed cricketers and their spanking sticks. Could it be that the Aussies are finally coming around to how much this sport makes its audience want to tear its hair out?
Perhaps not, because as an Aussie TV commentator decreed the other day, “A nation isn’t civilized until it plays cricket.” Ouch.
But, by golly, if me and my fellow Americans aren’t civilized, then so be it.
In comparison to its Australian cousin, our game of baseball is like a sport-gasm, as exciting as Christmas Eve and as exhilarating as your first kiss. There’s no way a country like ours will ever deign to the boredom, tedium, and monotony of cricket, nor will we ever approach that level with any of our other homegrown sports.
Oh wait, we still have NASCAR, don’t we.
Dang. Now that makes me want to chug some Vegemite.